A dental sealant is a plastic material placed on the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of teeth where up to 80 percent of decay occurs in school children. It is these deep pits and grooves where bacteria live that can lead to the development of a cavity. A sealant is like a raincoat for teeth. The application requires no anesthesia (shots) or drilling on the teeth. The surface of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and a plastic material is bonded to the tooth creating a smooth surface. Sealants prevent tooth decay by creating a barrier between the teeth and decay-causing bacteria. Just like a raincoat keeps you dry in a rainstorm, sealants help to keep bacteria and acids from settling on the teeth.
Sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. The combination of sealants and fluoride has the potential to greatly reduce the incidence of tooth decay in school age children. Dental sealants are most effective when applied to children who are at the highest risk of tooth decay.
The Arkansas Seal-the-State initiative was begun in 2007 with a two-year grant from the Daughters of Charity Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri. During the initial two-year project more than 2,000 children received dental sealants, free of charge. Currently, Seal-the-State is a cooperative effort of the ADH Office of Oral Health, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and volunteer dentists and dental hygienists. During the initial two-year project more than 2,000 children received dental sealants, free of charge.
The current partnership program uses portable, state-of-the-art dental equipment set up in schools across Arkansas to treat children at risk of tooth decay. Seal-the-State also conducts educational and awareness efforts on dental sealants using both print and broadcast media to help Arkansans understand the importance of sealants.
The combination of dental sealants and community water fluoridation has a dynamic impact in reducing tooth decay in children.